Thursday, October 10, 2013

NEW COHORT- The first two weeks: Induction and Project-specific training

The new cohort has arrived! Now at the end of our training weeks, the new team is feeling excited to start work and put our knowledge into practice, carrying on the extensive work of the previous cohort.
The new team: Nela, Loksan, Stanley, Cally, Elliott

Our induction consisted of cultural awareness information as well as French and Moore lessons. These have already proved invaluable in helping us to get to know the national volunteers as well as with buying food from the local market. The national volunteers, in addition to the team leaders, have been extremely welcoming and have helped us to settle in to both home and work life here. We all agree that bonding with the nationals is a priority in ensuring our work is successful, both for international relations and in producing work with a big impact for the local community.

 During our first week in country, we visited all 5 International Service (IS) partner organisations to get a sense of the work they do. Ideas have already started flooding in as to how we can incorporate the work of the other groups of volunteers. One visit that stood out was our visit to Zinaire, where the Kabeela group is based. Here we had a taste of rural Burkina life, and got to try the local beer and millet milk.  Also, our visit to Djuigui Espoir kick-started our love affair with the soya brochettes they produce and conveniently sell at a restaurant near to ABPAM, the base of our office.

Our first Saturday was spent working at the National Championships, which was a great hands-on learning experience of the kind of projects we’ll be working on. The event itself had been organized by the previous cohort, so while it was a shame they didn’t get to see the fruits of their labour, it was great to see what is achievable here. It was also useful to see what worked and what didn’t work, as well as noting the obvious discrimination the disabled sports face in Burkina Faso. We also had the honour of presenting the prizes to the winners.
Working at the National Championships

Long jump for people with intellectual handicaps

Handbike race

100m for people with intellectual disabilities

In Burkina, you cannot help but notice the different pace of life. When eating out at restaurants after work, the food takes longer to arrive, but we can sit back and enjoy the local live music and soak up the laid back African atmosphere. Everyone has enjoyed trying the new foods including riz gras and to, and checking out the arts culture at the local sculpture park.

One evening after work, we were invited to watch the training of the wheelchair basketball team affiliated with Handicap Solidaire Burkina (HSB), one of the other partner organisations with IS volunteers. This turned into a full blown game with mixed teams of volunteers and wheelchair athletes!
Wheelchair basketball

During our project-specific training, we have been planning the direction our work will take over the next 10 weeks, as well as gaining awareness of disability sport and fundraising skills. We had an introduction to the history of the Federation of Sport for Disabled People (FBSPH) and discussed how our work will complement and extend the achievements of the previous cohort. This means we now have an understanding of our objectives: what has been done, and what we will do.

Talking to Paralympic athletes at our office

Our second Saturday was spent at a Burkinabe wedding, which was an awesome experience for the whole group. The couple are the daughter and new son-in-law of Georgette, the IS financial secretary. Here, we were lucky enough to try real, authentic African cuisine and watch the women sing and dance in procession to welcome the bride home. Later we all joined in the dancing and felt extremely welcomed by the whole party. Then, Sunday was spent at a hotel pool to relax and enjoy a well-deserved day off!

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